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FREESPACE - Closing Note by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2018

FREESPACE - Closing Note by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

FREESPACE, the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, has closed on 25 November after a successful run.  The Biennale has reported an increase in visitor numbers for 2018 (up 6% from 2016) with over 275,000 visitors attending on top of the 14,434 visitors to the preview days in May.

Biennale President, Paolo Baratta, commented the results as follows: “With a Biennale dedicated to space, and to free space in particular, thanks to Yvonne and Shelley we have celebrated architecture in its most delicate, noble and socially useful of functions, which is to contribute to the common good. Be it the fruit of the client's or designer's generosity, the fruit of institutional or collective actions, free space qualifies the way we live with a more complete vision of our civilization and our culture. Having freespace is a right, creating frees pace is a duty. I wish to thank the Curators again, and once again to thank the entire staff of the Biennale.”


Closing Note by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

As we come to the closing of the Biennale Architettura 2018 we would first of all like to thank President Paola Baratta for inviting us as Curator.
It has been a wonderfully enriching experience.

The Exhibition focus was to celebrate the shared culture of architecture, demonstrating how inventive, comforting, exhilarating, modest, heroic architecture can be; how architecture serves the needs of human beings with dignity and respect be it the need for shelter, for water, for protection from flooding; how materials can be transformed into beautiful uplifting spaces; how architecture can bring people together and serve communities; how architecture can transform waste left -over spaces into public space.

Over the many months of the Exhibition, we witnessed the enormous variety of people who have travelled to Venice to experience the Exhibition first hand - all ages, curious about architecture.
We have been truly heartened by the number of non-architects, who have contacted us to say that they have a new respect for architecture and a deeper understanding of its’ ability to affect lives. The Meetings on Architecture held on numerous Saturdays over the six months, became a focus of discussion and insight, with revealing presentations from the various guest speakers.

As a starting point, we wanted to heighten awareness of the unique location of the Biennale in the extraordinary city of Venice. Our approach was that the context and atmosphere of the city itself would be present in the atmosphere of the Exhibition. The Exhibition was designed to reveal the unique qualities the exhibition buildings themselves: the Corderie and the Central Pavilion. These buildings informed our curatorial strategy and we enjoyed the effects that these had on our choices and placements of participants.

Our Freespace Manifesto acted as a guide to finding cohesion within the diversity of an exhibition of this enormous scale. The response from every invited participant was extraordinary, where the manifesto was interrogated, dissected, interpreted, challenged by their intelligence and creativity.

It has been a privilege, a pleasure and a revelation to work with the community of outstanding architects throughout the world.
We have in this Architecture Biennale, seen architects from a diversity of locations, cultures and conditions, investing creative and intellectual energy, unreservedly, unconditionally, tending to the well-being of architecture.
The joy of seeing work unfold; of getting a deeper insight into each architect’s philosophy, dreams and ambitions; of witnessing the skill and passion embodied in each exhibit; have reinforced our belief that an optimistic state of being is a necessary pre-requisite to the practice of architecture.

This leaves us, despite all the difficulties in our complicated world, with a deep sense of optimism for the future, in the knowledge that within these satellites of cultural energy which each participant represented, there are outstanding architects promoting and producing architecture.
We would like to say a special ‘thank you’ to everyone who forms part of  the Biennale’s extraordinary Team – all of whom have such a deep commitment to the highest standards. We loved witnessing their support, understanding and deep commitment to architecture. We thank each person in this extraordinary Team for their professionalism and dedication. At a human level, each person on the Biennale Team has been a pleasure to work with.

Leading this Team, we sincerely thank the President Paolo Baratta, for providing his intellectual and creative support, his wisdom, and for his unfailing energy and determination to promote the cause of architecture through the medium of La Biennale.

On behalf of all our Team, we hope that this Biennale adds to the love and appreciation of architecture. 

Yvonne and Shelley

Assistants to the Curator:
Alice Clancy
Sebastiano Giannesini
Emmett Scanlon
Nathalie Weadick

Gerard Carty
James Martin
James Rossa O'Hare
Philippe O'Sullivan

Hugh Campbell, Close Encounter
Livia Hurley

Graphic Identity:
David Smith
Oran Day

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